Goodbye, Graduate

Black drapes, square caps, let’s graduate.

Four years gone, gained, hood me.

My parents are not here yet.

Pray, people say.

My mouth chews and spits God’s faithfulness

To redeem all things—deceit

Under the pasty palate of my face,

brittle porcelain Krazy glued into place.

 

I plead, God help me;

I speak, God bless you.

 

This is the end;

I see the start:

College drop-off day.

You didn’t even hug me.

I waved at the back of your heads, quiet,

your clawing words swallowed by the elevator,

slurping up your fight.

You never said I love you back.

I locked my new door,

Thanked God you had left me behind,

Cried.

 

The prayer is over.

I’ve stepped aside.

Someone else is up to speak.

Lord, when will they finally get here?

It’s not that I don’t know how to wait.

What’s a few hours more to a few years late?

 

 

Ethiopian Coffee

The way to eat Ethiopian food wrong is not to eat it at all.

Your host may frown whether you chew diligently or not,

Or they may smile.

Ethiopian’s straight noses and high cheekbones,

Like European descents with milk-chocolate skin,

They are African.

They are beautiful.

They don’t smile to make you feel good about what they prepared,

You simply eat elbow-to-elbow.

Take the foamy injera, a flimsy gluten-free pancake, pale sour, in one hand.

Tear it, but not too small.

This is your silverware, your edible hand.

Grip lumps of shiro,

Injera between your fingers and this main dish,

And shove the messy mass coated in red chili, onion, and bean paste between your teeth,

Fingers and all.

It will be spicy, kicking and screaming on all sides,

Amplifying its tantrum the longer the meal goes on.

Eat it anyway,

Even if you can hardly bear the stings bursting your tongue.

Eat it because coffee comes after a meal,

Fresh beans bubbled up from Ethiopian earth still green.

The grandmother washes them with her aged desert hands,

Water passing over the cracks in her fingers to plump up the pebbles between them.

A cradle of burnt clay holds the beans on the stove as they sizzle and turn black.

In her home country, a mortar and pestle rest between her knees to make powder.

In America, you just turn on the grinding machine.

More traditional burnt black clay like a tall Middle Eastern oil lamp rests on the stovetop.

This is an Ethiopian coffee pot boiling water and grinds.

It takes a long time for the grinds to settle with no filter,

So people sit together in the living room, in the open air, on the ground and talk,

Often in awkward silences waiting for the next topic to surface.

No distractions are allowed, no children or card games.

This is a sacred time of drinking in the smell and taste of fresh coffee and fresh connections,

Right now.

Take it black.

The floral aromatic flavor is enough, with no bitter aftertaste you need to try and cover up.

It is liquid velvet smooth,

A hint of a fresh African breeze through thick green captured in your cup, vibrant.

Drink it in.

Love Like the Hasidim

If I should ever know this being in love, I would want to say:

I cannot tell you why or how, of the stars being out tonight,

of the rains that yesterday didn’t come. I cannot tell you of

the spark of eternity within me; I must coax yours from that

hard-coated shell, and only then will what is electric eternal

in me stretch past the tip of my nose, inasmuch as it

charges awake that spark in you and marvels. Let me

see the wonder of worlds in your eyes; together, let

us awe at the how and the why in the stars and the

rain, at the fact of us, at wretchedness redeemed.

Dark Harbor

“I would like to step out of my heart’s door and be
Under the great sky.  I would like to step out
And be on the other side, and be part of all

That surrounds me.  I would like to be
In that solitude of soundless things, in the random
Company of the wind, to be weightless, nameless.

But not for long, for I would be downcast without
The things I keep inside my heart; and in no time
I would be back.  Ah!  the old heart

In which I sleep, in which my sleep increases, in which
My grief is ponderous, in which the leaves are falling,
In which the streets are long, in which the night

Is dark, in which the sky is great, the old heart
That murmurs to me of what cannot go on,
Of the dancing, of the inmost dancing.”

–Mark Strand, an excerpt from the work Dark Harbor: A Poem.

Sleeping

This is an audio file for a poem that was played in one of my classes today; it was a beautiful blending of the sorrows of war between the Vietnam War and the present conflict in the Middle East which America is involved in. The author is named Andrea Gibson. This is “Sleeping” from the Album of poetry Flower Boy. See her website for more: andreagibson.com

 

 

Au Revoir, Famille d’Henrotte

You are a living Swedish doll, aged a bit, just add

clogs, skin yellow like Georgia sweet bread,

chapped hands smoothed over by liquid youth:

lavender lotion. Your glinting blue eyes are

squelched by the curves in your grin. With one

soft hand you pat–you hold my cheek, and

lean into the other to kiss. Your short straw hair

bounces against my forehead. “Remember your stop,

number three. If you miss it, I won’t be able to come

pick you up this time.” I will miss the togetherness of

watching “Plus Belle la Vie”  in the evenings while

crunching on radishes and sipping Champagne.

 

Your masculine shadow, with lightly salted black

hair, bushy bohemian eyebrows, lips of a horse,

mum, hauls my rolling luggage up off the open-

aired platform, pulling it next to my seat.

“Thank you.” He leans in, wraps his arms around

me and his well- fed gourmet French belly plumps

onto mine, reminiscent of the oysters, the grape quail,

bleu cheese and Belgian beer. With thick old

hands, he grasps my jaws and kisses-kisses

each cheek wetly. More words pass from him

next than ever I have received from him before:

“I know we have our disagreements, but you are

a good girl. You will learn. Next time we meet, I

hardly will recognize you. You go now. Do well at

school. We will cheer for you.”

 

I collapse into my seat, dabbing at my eyes,

scraping my American cheeks, and press

my whole frame up against the window,

through the murky glass, to

press–as into a mould–my mind into their

silhouettes.

 

Every time I try to see again

through that glass, to feel the rumples of their

memory mould, their Franco-faces are blotchy;

milky; eroded. More and more I see her

wearing a black manteau, less and less I see

him in that Italian leather jacket.

I want to keep looking back, straining to see,

but the train keeps moving, rolling away

into new country. Eventually, my neck will

tire, and there will be nothing left to see

but an empty platform. Alas, alas, I must

shift my gaze ahead to the bare trees,

and the sun.

 

 

Maybe You’re Beat

Maybe you’re beat.

Flipped collar, slick hair

greased, overcast obscene,

hold cigarette between crude

lips, cage smiles.

Boys show teeth. Men, callous,

real, stare down butt stems

at smoke trails,

don’t flinch; weakness.

Lug guitar case, amp,

garage to shed, stand, scream;

sit sideways in alcohol,

shoot the breeze

with deadweights, sit on upturned

trash cans,

beat by the gravity of

dreamless life,

vomit every recycled idea, pretentious,

every careless binge, masochistic,

sleepless nights,

stiff with grief, narcissistic recluse,

fear paralytic, parents

who speak at you

leech-life ignorant,

blame you,

leave you and

never

come

back.

But fellow beat’s words

through smoke screens,

laughs, eyes dig, dig it, into your

pierced flesh, under dark lids,

beneath jagged breaths,

see.

They stay; hear; know.

You love them.

Biking in Brussels

 

Wet rubber screeches;

these skinny bike wheels

grumble over gravel patches.

Brussels smells ethereal this

time of year. A beige-clad

Brit leads, speeds through fat

ruts. I follow his bowler hat,

marvel at the functionality of

his arthritic mechanisms,

knees and elbows pivot and

groove more quickly than my

own. Green drips over my

cheeks from the trees. Soft

rain, he calls it. Soft. The

softness of earth, of sky,

falling on me in summer.

Give Me a Moment

Shrug through that jean jacket,

plunge forward on sneaker-tips,

you’re on your way into the night;

I’m on my way into the lit den. We

pass through the same heavy door,

pause, friends?, both startled by the

seeing in our amber glossed faces,

“Hey,”

“What’s up?”

A moment;

I urge to reach out, take your fist,

kiss it. “Come warm your tattered

soul in the light, rest your weathered

hands in mine, ease the bite in your tongue…

it’s going to be alright,” I fight to breathe.

But you turn away, moving on, and so must I.

A Farewell Party

Warm smiles ebb and flow with the

flickering candlelight against a wooden wall

backdrop, inside a splintered frame. They crowd

a long table in a dark room, each

face a twinkle in the other’s young glassy eyes,

a hodgepodge of black ties and fat sweats,

splashy sundresses and bro-tanks–

 

I stare in at them. I stand in the night,

enjoying the wood wall between us, the hands of

dust in the corners of the windowpane,

the sweet-breathed breeze that smells like fresh

snow mingled with violets, their smiles and

warm vocal-on-skin tones, my thin-soled

shoes on uneven stones and twigs and leaves

and how I can feel the face of the earth with

my feet and know where I am even when I stand

alone in the wooded darkness blind.

 

My heartstrings tremble for an unspeakable tune.

I walk away from the window and feel my way

through shadow-on-shadow for an acoustic

friend, wrap my hands around its neck

and ring it hard and slowly and off

beat and sing over it slightly out of tune but no

one’s counting except the deaf trees

clapping in the breeze, maybe God, and me.